By J. Sharpe Smith
PTA-FLA, Inc. dba Clear Talk, has asked the FCC to clarify the tribal consultation process, concerning the obligations of companies constructing or modifying tower structures under the provisions of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Programmatic Agreement.
Under Section 106, the FCC began the Tower Construction Notification System in 2004 alert preservationists and tribal communities of a tower that was proposed in an area in which they have stated an interest. PTA-FLA asserts that tribes have recently expanded the number areas where they have an interest, which multiplies the number reviews required of the tower construction company.
“The way the system is set up is extremely, extremely inefficient because it requires such a broad outreach to tribes, which are obligated to oversee the construction. Way, way too many people looking at too many things that end up having very little relevance to anything,” said Donald J. Evans, member, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, which filed the Petition of Declaratory Ruling.
At the same time, tribes are increasing charging higher fees to review proposed towers and monitor construction in their areas of interest.
“The availability of these fees and payments has probably encouraged the expansion of areas of interest since the more sites a tribe reviews, the more revenue it generates,” Evans said. “The economics of how this has been working are driving are driving things in a bad direction.”
Evans said PTA-FLA would like to see the FCC make the tribal consultation process more efficient by narrowing the scope entities that would be consulted.
“Given the miniscule number of sites that are actually found to affect Indian burial grounds as a percentage of sites reviewed, the process seems to not only be addressing a problem that does not exist, but is actually creating a new problem by delaying the construction of the tower infrastructure needed to deliver broadband to unserved or underserved areas,” PTA-FLA’s filing said.